Monday 22 July 2024

The Tufted ducklings reappear

A brood of Tufted ducklings, nine of them, was first seen on the Serpentine three days ago. They are mostly keeping safely out of sight by the island. Today there were still nine. They were at the Lido restaurant with their mother.

Only one of the young Grey Herons on the island was still in the nest, here seen begging at a parent on a branch above.

The other one had come right down and was on one of the wire baskets around the island. This is worrying. Clearly it had some flying skill, because it couldn't have got on to the basket without it. But can it fly well enough to get back up to the nest? It won't be fed unless it's in the nest.

The male Little Owl at the Round Pond looked out of the nest hole. I saw a squirrel in the hole yesterday, but he seems to be able to scare them away.

The owlet was calling from a nearby horse chestnut. I couldn't find it at first. Then its mother flew out of the same tree and on to another some distance away, evidently trying to lead me away from her youngster. I couldn't get close to her because she had trouble with two Rose-Ringed Parakeets that were already in the tree and all three disappeared in a flurry of squawks.

Returning to the owlet, I found it well hidden in the leaves.

A Blackbird searched for worms under a tree by the Dell. It pulled up two but didn't eat them at once. I've seen this behaviour before when they were feeding young: they leave the worms on the ground and come back to collect several at a time to carry to the nestlings. But this bird's young have grown up, so the habit seems to be general.

This Blackbird near the Round Pond came out from under a lime tree, immediately picked up a worm, and went back under the tree. Maybe it was another example of a pre-pulled worm.

A Great Tit by the bridge was clearly thinking, When will he stop pointing that thing at me and give me a pine nut?

A gang of Feral Pigeons gathered in a particularly lush patch of grass to pull the seeds off the stems.

A young Carrion Crow beside the Serpentine tried hard to shell a peanut. It had the good idea of wedging it against a twig to keep it still, but lacked the strength to give it the brutal peck that would break the shell, which an adult can easily do. But it knew what to do and probably managed in the end, and anyway it needs to learn the technique.

This young crow by the Henry Moore sculpture knew perfectly well how to shell a peanut and I've seen it succeed. I gave it a nut, but it couldn't be bothered to open it and instead was begging at a parent, which took absolutely no notice of it.

A crow shook itself dry after bathing at the Vista.

A remarkable picture from Cáceres in Spain, taken by Emilio Pacios: hundreds of House Martins gathered on electricity cables. In the park we're lucky to see a dozen at a time. I wonder where they all nest.

A Red Admiral butterfly sunned itself in the middle of the path at the Triangle.

A Buff-Tailed Bumblebee on a globe thistle in the Rose Garden saw off a Batman Hoverfly that had tried to land.

Lastly, here's an insect I've never seen before: a Pellucid Hoverfly Volucella pellucens, on the tip of a buddleia flower at the bridge which it's sharing with a relative, a Hornet Hoverfly V. zonaria.

The Pellucid Hoverfly is a parasitoid. It strolls into the underground nests of Common or German Wasps, for some reason unopposed, and lays its eggs. The emerging larvae then feed on wasp larvae and dead wasps. From what I can discover, the Hornet Hoverfly also lays eggs in wasp nests but its larvae are commensal, living peacefully among the wasp larvae. Can this really be true?

Sunday 21 July 2024

The young Little Owl reappears

A young Chaffinch flew out of the Dell and landed on a branch.

One of the young Blackcaps near the Italian Garden, photographed by Ahmet Amerikali. There have been three Blackcap nests around the Long Water, as well as others elsewhere in Kensington Gardens, and it has been a good year for them.

The young Little Owl at the Round Pond, not seen for several days, was in a horse chestnut tree. It had a careful look around, preened briefly and flew away.

Its father kept an eye on it from the next tree.

The young Grey Herons are getting more adventurous. One climbed out of the nest on to a branch.

Its wings are fully developed but it will have to practise jumping and flapping from branch to branch before it can fly. This all looks thoroughly dangerous, but they never seem to lose their footing and get stranded on the ground.

An adult heron was fishing on the small waterfall in the Dell. It was standing stock still and passers by were wondering whether it was a plastic ornament.

A Great Crested Grebe on the Long Water was doing a typically vague bit of nest building.  It really takes two of them to do anything, and even then the result is a slovenly mess.

A Coot family in the Italian Garden bustled around in the water lilies looking for insects.

We haven't had a picture of the Black Swan for a while. He was preening at the east end of the Serpentine. All this time he has been alone, and is not making any progress in finding a new girlfriend.

A Canada Goose pecked at a floating orange.

A Tufted drake turned upside down to preen his shining white belly.

One of the young foxes in the Dell came down to the stream to drink.

They sometimes go to the top of the slope and peer through the railings at the passing humans.

A male Emperor dragonfly hunted over the Long Water.

Black-Tailed Skimmers mated on the edge of the Serpentine, a long and complicated business.

A Comma butterfly perched on a bramble leaf.

The small bee seen yesterday was on the same patch of red yarrow in the Rose Garden. It had less pollen on it and I think it's a Yellow-Legged Mining Bee, Andrena flavipes, but the pollen makes it hard to tell whether its legs really are yellow.

It was dwarfed by a Hornet Hoverfly.

Saturday 20 July 2024

Hobby over the Vista

A Hobby has been seen several times in Kensington Gardens, and today there was a sight of one flying high up the Vista to hunt dragonflies over the Round Pond.

The female Little Owl, in her usual lime tree, was bored with waiting for the park to close so she could go hunting.

Her mate stared severely down from the top of a horse chestnut.

Again I didn't find the young one, but that should be cause for alarm because it has stopped its incessant begging call and is also very mobile, both of which make it hard to find.

A young Blackcap perched on a twig near the Italian Garden.

The usual male Chaffinch found me at the bridge and followed me along the path, demanding pine nuts.

Ahmet Amerikali found a Reed Warbler in a tree near the Diana fountain. They often leave the reed bed to hunt insects in the nearby trees.

A Grey Heron chased another around the island.

A pair of Black-Headed Gulls on the Serpentine shore strutted around together and moaned affectionately. It isn't the breeding season but their bond needs to be kept up.

Two Cormorants perched on the fallen poplar in the Long Water.

The Great Crested Grebes' nest at the island is still hanging on to the chain.

One of the pairs of Coots in the Italian Garden had built a third nest, just because they can't stop building.

The plastic milk bottles are not a nest ornament. The park management supposed -- wrongly -- that you can keep down algae by putting hay or straw in the water. Rather than pay for bales, they got volunteers to stuff lawn mowings into nets, along with used milk bottles to keep the nets afloat -- I have no idea why they wanted them to float, which would make no difference to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of this traditional remedy. The frail nets soon rotted and broke and the milk bottles floated to the surface, and the pools in the garden are littered with them. They look much worse than algae.

Ahmet Amerikali got an excellent picture of a female Tufted Duck with nine ducklings east of the Lido. I hadn't seen her at all and couldn't find her today. Probably she nested on the island and was taking her family on a feeding expedition.

Tufted Ducks have occasionally succeeded in raising young on the lake. The Herring Gulls are as ruthless as ever, but the ducklings can dive instantly and stay down for quite a long time.

One of the six young Egyptian Geese on the Long Water strolled ashore at the Vista,. Unlike waddling true geese, they walk elegantly.

The killer Mute Swan's mate is just as aggressive as he is, especially when other birds are near their six cygnets. She was attacking harmless Tufted Ducks, Coots and Canada Geese all minding their own business. Note also the flurry of Mallards at the top left corner towards the end, which is the subject of the next video.

The Mallard drake is in eclipse and should be having no thoughts of breeding, but Mallards are always overfull of hormones and he was having a go at a female.

The buddleia bush at the bridge didn't have a single butterfly on it, but it was visited by a large and handsome Hornet Hoverfly.

The red yarrow in the Rose Garden attracted a Batman Hoverfly ...

... and a small bee that was so covered in pollen that you couldn't tell much about it, but it looks to be an Andrena mining bee of some kind.

Friday 19 July 2024

Keeping cool

On a hot afternoon a Carrion Crow took advantage of the fountain in the Italian Garden for a drink and a quick splash.

There was movement in a bramble patch near Peter Pan and a glimpse of a little beak reaching for a blackberry.

It turned out to belong to a female Blackcap.

The male Little Owl at the Round Pond is much more mobile than the female and you never know where you are going to find him, if at all. Today he was in the top of a horse chestnut.

The female was preening in her usual place in the lime tree.

I didn't find the young one which, like its father, is in a different place every day.

Both the young Peregrines were on the barracks.

I heard one of the adults calling as it flew over Kensington Gardens, but it was behind trees and I didn't see it.

The Kingfishers at Rainham Marshes that I photographed on the 11th have now brought out two fledglings. Tom sent a fine picture of one of them being given a fish by its mother ...

... and he also shot a brief video of one fidgeting and begging on the same twig.

The young Grey Herons at the island weren't in a mood for climbing around, and were preening in the nest. These two seem less adventurous than the two from the last brood, which were all over the tree at this age.

The Great Crested Grebes' nest in the water below is still in one piece. It only has to last a few more days before the chicks hatch and can be carried safely on a parent's back.

The grebes on the Long Water lost their newest chick and the older one is now grown up and fending for itself, so they are thinking of breeding again and have made a typically slipshod nest on an oak branch.

The sitting Coot at the bridge was keeping the chicks under its wing, so I still can't tell how many there are.

There was an occasional glimpse of a little red head.

The two young foxes in the Dell are mostly seen by themselves now, but they're still not too grown-up for an occasional game.

In hot weather there is less dissolved oxygen in the water and the carp in the Italian Garden come up near the surface to be able to breathe better.

Two more of the wide range of flowers visited by Honeybees: the strange Heuchera sanguinea 'Coral Bells' ...

... and common white clover in the grass by the Italian Garden.